City-county housing merger has conditions

August 23, 1997


Staff Writer

The Hagerstown Housing Authority has offered to consolidate with the Washington County Housing Authority provided certain conditions are met, including the exclusion of Boonsboro's Schoolhouse Manor elderly complex from the deal.

"From a business standpoint it's not smart for us, at least initially," Hagerstown Housing Authority Executive Director Ted E. Shankle said Friday of the merger. "From the taxpayer standpoint this is a no-brainer. We'll do it better and more efficiently."

The offer stipulates that

* only the county's federally-funded housing projects such as the senior citizen communities of Blue Mountain Estates in Smithsburg and Park View Knoll in Williamsport be included in the consolidation.


Schoolhouse Manor in Boonsboro would be excluded because it is a state-funded project and the city housing authority's systems are only set up for federal programs, Shankle said.

Schoolhouse Manor is funded by residents' rents, Washington County Housing Authority Executive Director Richard Willson.

"We didn't see where it paid for itself," Shankle said.

* the Hagerstown Housing Authority would be under no obligation to continue to employ county housing employees or provide them with pensions, accrued sick leave or vacation time, worker's compensation and unemployment claims.

The county's housing staff has dropped from about 15 people to 11 people in the last 18 months, Willson said.

* the county would have to pay for a comprehensive audit of its housing authority and an appraisal of its fixed assets.

* the county would have to relinquish ownership of those fixed assets purchased with federal funding.

* the county would continue to mow grass, remove snow and maintain staff from the Commission on Aging at the elderly housing communities.

* the county would do all the initial legal work involved in consolidation.

* the county would provide staff to assist in the transition.

The Washington County Commissioners, seeking to cut costs, asked the city housing authority last year to consider a merger.

The commissioners budgeted $100,000 this year for the county housing authority, Willson said.

On Aug. 13 the Hagerstown Housing Authority passed a resolution favoring the consolidation, according to a letter from Chairman Carolyn W. Brooks to County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop.

Brooks asked Shoop to inform her of the county's response by Sept. 3

Shoop said Friday that it was "too early to make a comment" on the offer.

Under the offer's conditions the county would still have to employ several part-time staff to do maintenance work, write annual reports, certify incomes and do leasing work at Schoolhouse Manor, Willson said.

"The proposal as written does not eliminate county financial involvement," Willson said. "I'm sure the county had hoped it would be free of cost to them."

In addition to the 88 elderly housing units in Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport, the county also has 25 houses scattered throughout the county for families, Willson said.

Hagerstown's housing authority is much larger with 1,180 public housing units and a staff of 70 people, Shankle said.

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